Bona Vista (House and Slab Barns) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Bona Vista (House and Slab Barns)

Item details

Name of item: Bona Vista (House and Slab Barns)
Other name/s: Pitt Town Colonial Landscape; Bona Vista In Its Setting (Draft)
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Primary address: 11 Amelia Grove, Pitt Town, NSW 2756
Parish: Pitt Town
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Hawkesbury
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
11 Amelia GrovePitt TownHawkesburyPitt TownCumberlandPrimary Address
Johnston StreetPitt TownHawkesburyPitt TownCumberlandAlternate Address
Bootles LanePitt TownHawkesburyPitt TownCumberlandAlternate Address

Statement of significance:

Bona Vista lies within a surviving colonial landscape of national significance. The 1794-1804 land grants at Mulgrave Place and Pitt Town are thought to be the oldest group of land grants surviving in Australia still visible in the landscape and the original Bona Vista farmland is an integral component of that landscape. In particular, the 1794-1803 land grants demonstrate a highland and lowland farming strategy to manage variations in weather cycles, such as flooding, with associated town residences and a mix of private and common land for agriculture that is rare is NSW today.

The Bona Vista homestead group (c1880s) is possibly the most substantial and extant nineteenth-century farmstead in the Pitt Town area, complete with surviving slab barns and agrarian land. It is of state significance as a late Victorian stone farmhouse still largely within its original garden and rural setting, and including a major concentration of early vertical slab barns. Bona Vista is able to demonstrate the agricultural longevity and vitality of the Hawkesbury area and contains evidence from all major periods of its agricultural use.

The Bona Vista homestead group and surrounding farmland are closely associated with the extended Jones/Fleming/Hall/Johnston family, a prominent pioneering Hawkesbury family whose complicated landholdings and family connections over generations played a significant role in the agricultural development of Pitt Town. Other properties associated with the family include Bligh's Model Farm (Blighton), the Macquarie Arms (formerly the Blighton Arms) (c1815), Percy Place (1820s, now demolished), Bona Vista (1880s) and Fernadell.

Bona Vista is of state significance for its potential to reveal archaeological relics relating to both Aboriginal and European occupation. Given the late eighteenth century settlement and the continuing rural character of the Pitt Town area, the whole area comprising the 1794-1804 land grants displays high potential for archaeological deposits relating to colonial occupation.

The original Bona Vista farmlands lies within, and is an important component of, an agricultural landscape of high aesthetic significance. Its historic and picturesque qualities have attracted many artists both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Date significance updated: 26 May 03
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Not known
Builder/Maker: Albert and George Arnold, building contractors from Lower Portland
Construction years: 1881-
Physical description: The house is a substantial late Victorian farmhouse constructed of stone. It has a low-pitched, hipped roof with deep verandahs. There is an attached rear service wing, also constructed of stone. The house retains mature trees and its original tree-lined drive from Johnston Street. A tall mature pine is situated close to the house and is visible from the Pitt Town Bottoms Road.

Also, close to the main house is a significant collection of early timber barns. The construction of these barns has been dated to between c1841 1890 and they form a major barn group within the larger collection of distinctive early Hawkesbury barns located on the lowlands near the Hawkesbury River. They share similarities with the other Pitt Town barns such as their age and construction and the inclusion of lofts and elevated storage spaces. Because of these similarities and the 1881 lithographic map which showed Bona Vista as a vacant site, it is assumed that the barns were moved to Bona Vista at some time after 1881. It is highly likely that the Johnstons moved the barns to the high ground of Bona Vista from other neighbouring lowland farms owned by the family.

Presently, the central and eastern portions of Bona vista are cleared and merge into open woodland.

The original Bona Vista farm boundary is defined by substantial sections of hardwood split post and rail fencing, which it is assumed date from the 1880s.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The homestead, mature trees, slab barns and other outbuildings and original driveway survive largely intact.

In the 1990s subdivision of the western boundary took place, the immediate curtilage aoround the house was reduced to an allotment of approx 2 ha (5 acres) and a new driveway off Amelia Grove was created.

According to the Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES by Navin Officer (January 2002), the assessment of the archaeological potential of Bona Vista is hindered by the lack of a comprehensive historic archaeology survey of the Pitt Town area. However, given the late eighteenth century settlement along the Pitt Town Bottoms and the continuing rural character of the Pitt Town area, it follows that the area comprising the 1794-1804 land grants and bounded by the Old Stock Road created by Governor King displays potential for archaeological deposits relating to colonial occupation.

Within this area, the original Benjamin Jones's 1803 land grant is of particular significance for largely retaining its rural character and retaining archaeological potential to reveal further sites and deposits relating to the early colonial period. For example, archaeological evidence of Benjamin Jones's c1806 house and barn on his original 200-acre grant may be located near the present Bona Vista homestead. The 1803 land grant also has further archaeological potential relating to later nineteenth and early twentieth century agricultural uses.

Two Aboriginal sites have been identified by NPWS: three indurated mudstone artefacts exposed on a track near a channel excavation (NPWS site number 45-5-2489 and a scarred tree with a single scar (1.4m by 0.3m and regrowth between 15-20 cm) is located on the northern boundary of the Bona Vista estate within the red gum woodlands (NPWS site number 45-5-2490).

Acccording to the map of zones of Aboriginal archaeological sensitivity in the Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES Study (Navin Officer, January 2002), the original Bona Vista farmland includes zones of moderate and low-to-moderate potential, largely covering the eastern half of the property.
Date condition updated:26 May 03
Current use: private dwelling, grazing
Former use: orcharding, grazing

History

Historical notes: PRE-COLONIAL OCCUPATION
The original inhabitants of the Hawkesbury district were the Darug people. Their name for the Hawkesbury was ‘Venrubbun’ or ‘Deerubin’. They relied on the river for food and navigated its waters in small canoes that allowed them to manoeuvre within the river’s shallow foreshores. The vicinity of Bona Vista formed part of the clan area of the friendly Aboriginal men, Gombeeree and Yellomundee, whom Governor Phillip encountered in 1791. These men, together with Yellomundee's son, Deeimba, helped Phillip's party cross Bardenarang Creek and shared a campfire with them nearby (Tench, 229-33). Rock carvings and evidence of Aboriginal occupation survive, but by the end of the nineteenth century no full-blood members of the Darug people remained in the area (Barkley and Nichols, Hawkesbury 1794-1994, pp 1, 2, 3).

INITIAL EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT
The first European explorations of the Hawkesbury River were led by Governor Phillip in early 1789 when two short expeditions travelled along the lower reaches of a picturesque and navigable waterway which showed great promise of fertile soil. Phillip named the river in honour of Charles Jenkinson, first Earl of Liverpool, Baron Hawkesbury.

In June 1789 a third expedition which included Governor Phillip, Captain David Collins, Captain Johnston, Captain John Hunter and the surgeon Mr White, explored the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River. Despite the picturesque scenery, the party observed evidence of the river’s capacity for flooding. The party reached the site of present-day Windsor on 6 July 1789 and travelled as far as present-day Richmond before returning to Sydney.

The evidence of flooding and the area’s remoteness from Sydney made Phillip reluctant to allow any settlement in the Hawkesbury area and he refused requests for land grants in the area.

Phillip left the colony in December 1792 and was succeeded by Lieutenant-Governor Major Francis Grose. Grose made the decision to allow settlement along the river and in January 1794 he allowed the first land grants at Mulgrave Place, north of present-day Windsor on the Hawkesbury River. The Surveyor-General Augustus Alt surveyed the area in April 1794 and the first 22 settlers received 30 acres (12 hectares) each, an acreage smaller than many were entitled to.

Further grants were made in subsequent years. The early settlers cleared land and set up farms along the fertile, flood-prone riverbanks. The concentration of small land grants saw the development of intensive farming on the alluvial flats with wheat, maize and vegetable crops. However, flooding was a constant threat. Many settlers built houses on the lowland or bottoms to have them regularly washed away by flooding.

The widespread tree-felling and clearing of the riverbank by the early settlers led to conflict with Aboriginals. The occupation of the riverbanks displaced the local Aboriginals who relied on access to the river for yams, one of the main source of food (Barkley and Nichols, Hawkesbury 1794-1994, p 1). By 1796 clashes between the settlers and Aboriginals had resulted in troops from the NSW Corps being sent to the small settlement soon to be known as Green Hills (Windsor). In 1796 Governor Hunter toured the district and instructed a road to be built from Parramatta, although the river continued for many years to be a principal means of trade and travel.

The Hawkesbury had been since 1794 the most fertile settlement in the colony. By 1799 55 per cent of cultivated land in the colony was along the Hawkesbury, with high yields due to the richness of the alluvial plains. The Hawkesbury River was navigable for four miles above Windsor and for the first 30 years of white settlement, the Hawkesbury was the ‘granary’ of NSW.

GOVERNOR KING’S CESSATION OF LAND GRANTS AT PITT TOWN AND FORMATION OF THE DISTRICT
In August 1804 Governor Gidley King directed the creation of six commons, three of which were in the Hawkesbury area: Nelson (Pitt Town), Wilberforce and Ham (Richmond) Commons (Land and Property Information, Register of Land Grants, Book 3c, pp164-170). These commons were intended for use by local farmers for the ‘preservation and increase of the breeding stock’ and in recognition that the existing 30-acre grants were too small for grazing animals. They were all situated on high land to avoid flooding. From this, an agricultural connection was formed between the fertile lowlands used for intensive agriculture and the uplands which were used for grazing stock and settlement and to avoid flooding.

At the same time, King issued a number of large land grants on the remaining Pitt Town uplands. Their size suggests that King also intended this land for pasturage and stock grazing. One of these grants was the 200-acre grant to Benjamin Jones in June 1803.

King’s creation of the Pitt Town Common in 1804 halted the eastern growth of Pitt Town and formed a Government-instigated boundary to that part of the district of Mulgrave Place, later known as Pitt Town. At Pitt Town the western boundary of the Pitt Town Common was defined by the road now known as the Old Stock Route Road. The Old Stock Route Road formed a barrier to further settlement and all the land to the west was granted.

BLIGH’S MODEL FARM (1806-1810)
William Bligh arrived in Sydney in 1806 as the new governor of New South Wales. In order to encourage and improve farming practices in the colony, Bligh bought 256 acres (110 hectares) at Pitt Town, part of the original grants to James Simpson and Thomas Tyler. This land fronted the Hawkesbury River north of Pitt Town and was known as ‘Blighton’ or the ‘Model Farm’. The aim of the farm was to demonstrate good farming practices and it was managed for Bligh by Andrew Thompson. There were three large buildings in 1807. Detailed descriptions and dimensions of each survive: the composite animal house and staff accommodation was no less than 64 metres long. And there are photographs and approximate locations for Bligh's buildings, which survived into the twentieth century and consititute a significant archaeological resource. Bligh also owned another property, ‘Copenhagen’ at Box Hill and a road led from Box Hill to Blighton across the original Pitt Town Common, the alignment of which survives as the present-day Old Pitt Town Road.

MACQUARIE’S FIVE TOWNS
In 1810 Governor Macquarie made his first tour of the colony and planned five new towns in the Hawkesbury as market centres in response to his instructions from the British government. His intention was to move the low-lying, flood-prone farming settlements onto higher ground, and on 6 December he ‘christened’ the five new townships of Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce. Pitt Town was named after the English parliamentarian, William Pitt, Prime Minister at the time of planning the colony in New South Wales.

On 14 January 1811 the original site for Pitt Town was laid out by the government surveyor in a way similar to the other Macquarie towns located within or close to the boundaries of the town commons. However, the township failed to develop due to the unmanageable distance from the settlement to the farmland, mainly in the flood-prone lower land.

In October 1815 the original site for the town was abandoned and a new township, laid out by Macquarie, was surveyed and located further west on the high ground above the Pitt Town lagoon. It was triangular in plan, with the streets and allotments fitting with the boundaries of the 1802 grant of 30 acres to William McDaniels.

Town lots were made available to farmers on the flood-prone lowlands if they immediately undertook to build a house. The size of the town lots granted was determined by the size of the farmer’s farmland in Pitt Town. The land titles for the allotments in the town were legally tied to the ownership of the lowland farms until the 1890s. This system of land title was a vital farming strategy and unique to the Macquarie towns on the Hawkesbury in serving the area because of both its agricultural importance and its potential for flooding.

HISTORY OF BENJAMIN JONES’S 1803 LAND GRANT
Benjamin Jones (1773 1837) was transported for seven years and arrived in Sydney in October 1791 on board the Britannia of the Third Fleet. He married the widow Mary Fleming in c1897, who had one son by her previous marriage, Henry Fleming (1791 1838).

In May 1797 Henry Fleming was granted 30 acres fronting the Hawkesbury River and Bardenerang Creek which was actively farmed for him by his stepfather.

In 1801 Benjamin Jones probably acquired a 24-acre subdivision from Thomas Tyler next to Henry Fleming’s land on the Pitt Town Bottoms. In June 1803 Jones received another grant of 200 acres on the uplands at Pitt Town which, in 1804, he assigned to his four children, Elizabeth, John, James and Benjamin.

These land grants and purchases by Jones and Fleming clearly demonstrate the early pattern of landholding in the Pitt Town area where farmers held both lowland and upland properties. This created an essential agricultural link between the Pitt Town lowlands and the uplands where farmers used the alluvial flats for intensive farming and cropping, and used their upland holdings for grazing, storage and for refuge in times of flood.

In February 1810 Henry Fleming married Elizabeth Hall, the eldest daughter of George Hall, and Fleming helped manage his father-in-law’s farms.

George Hall (1764 1840) had arrived on the Coromandel in June 1802 and in 1807 purchased 50 acres of Simpson’s farm, next to Bligh’s Model Farm (Blighton) at Pitt Town. In 1814 he acquired a further 100 acres close by with river frontage, comprising the original grants to Thomas Webb, William Waring and another portion of Simpson’s farm. In 1815 he purchased 50 acres made up of Patrick Shannon’s and Henry Buck’s grants. Between 1814 and 1842 he leased Bligh’s Model Farm and in 1842, following George Hall’s death in 1840, his sons bought the property.

In c1820 Hall built Percy Place, a two-storey brick residence on the eastern side of Hall’s Point which became his main residence and the centre of his agricultural and pastoral interests (destroyed by fire in 1900).

George Hall and his sons managed a large pastoral enterprise involving properties in the Hunter Valley and the Liverpool Plains as well in the Hawkesbury. In evidence presented to Commissioner Bigge in 1820, Hall stated that he owned 470 acres of lowland and 130 acres of forest. He also stated that he was leasing Bligh’s farm of 40 acres of lowland and 210 acres of forest. Other family-held and leasehold properties included a farm at Sackville known as Lilburndale established by his son, George Smith Hall; 600 acres at Dural; thousands of acres in the Hunter Valley; squatting runs on the Liverpool Plains; and 123 acres of holding paddocks at Auburn. They grazed stock and moved this stock to the Sydney market through the Wollombi and McDonald Valleys, presumably using the Hall farms in the Hawkesbury and Dural as staging posts.

Between 1815 and 1819 Henry Fleming built and ran the Blighton Arms in Pitt Town. After 1819, when Fleming had his licence declared null and void for operating an irregular and ‘riotous’ house, George Hall bought the hotel and transferred it to another son-in-law, William Johnston, who had married his daughter Mary in 1819. A two-storey house was built alongisde the Blighton Arms. The property was known subsequently as the Macquarie Arms and as Mulgrave Place: both these very early buildings survive.

In 1815 Benjamin Jones left the Hawkesbury and moved to Tasmania. Henry Fleming continued to managed his stepfather’s farms in his absence, as well as his own landholdings and those of his father-in-law, George Hall. Jones became a successful pastoralist in Tasmania, and Henry Fleming acquired further landholdings in the MacDonald Valley after moving there in 1828.

1838 SUBDIVISION OF JONES’S 1803 LAND GRANT
In April 1837 Benjamin Jones died. In May 1838, his wife Mary also died. This appears to have prompted the sale of the 1803 grant of 200 acres at Pitt Town. It was bought for £435 in October 1838 by George Hall and his son-in-law, William Johnston. Shortly after, in December 1838, Henry Fleming died.

In 1838 George Hall and William Johnston divided Jones’s grant of 200 acres, creating Bootles Lane. Hall took possession of the northern portion, incorporating it within Percy Place (Hall Estate). Johnston took possession of the southern portion.

George Hall died in 1840 and his estate was divided between his five sons in a complicated property settlement. Two sons, Matthew Henry (1811 1888) and Ebenezer (1813 1887) became joint owners of Percy Place. Other family members managed the Hunter Valley stations and the squatting runs in the Liverpool Plains as a trust until the 1870s.

Up to the 1870s and during a period of sustained prosperity for the Hawkesbury district, the inter-related Jones, Fleming, Hall and Johnston families owned and managed a number of farms either adjacent to, or in close proximity to, each other. Altogether, their combined landholdings and leaseholds covered a large area of the lowlands and uplands north of Pitt Town.

During the nineteenth century, the early pattern of lowland and upland landholdings continued where Hawkesbury farmers used the flood-prone, alluvial soils of the lowlands along the river for intensive agriculture and the uplands, not subject to flooding, were used for grazing stock and for storing produce. The landholdings of the Jones, Fleming, Hall and Johnston families clearly demonstrate that this practice survived in the late nineteenth century.

In 1864 the rail line from Blacktown to Windsor was opened, but the later opening of the railway to Liverpool and the western districts of New South Wales led to a decline in the Hawkesbury’s pre-eminence as NSW’s granary. The onset of wheat rust ruined crops, and severe flooding in the late 1860s and 1870s effectively ruined wheat production in the Hawkesbury.

Contesting property claims within the Hall family led to a series of court proceedings in the 1870s and 1880s, and the Hall Estate was gradually divided up. In many instances, portions offered for sale were bought back by members of the family. In November 1881 Richardson and Wrench, under court instructions, offered the Hall Estate (exclusive of Percy Place) for sale by auction in six allotments (LTO DP979541).

Lot 7 (the northern portion of Benjamin Jones’s grant) was bought by James Henry Johnston in March 1882 for £2827. James Henry Johnston was the son of William and Mary Johnston (who owned the southern portion of Benjamin Jones’s grant) and married to his cousin, Mary Hall (1868). This means that the Hall/Johnston family largely retained ownership of Percy Place (Hall Estate) by purchasing back several of the six allotments offered for sale. In particular, the Johnston family retained ownership of the 1803 Benjamin Jones grant, now divided by Bootles Lane.

Lot 6 was subdivided in 1881 to become the Vermont Township by the Haymarket Permanent Land, Building and Investment Company (LTO Book 2407, No 757 and DP 979242). No township was built and the allotments were developed instead for citrus orchards. The sale in 1881 did not create any significant shift in the focus of settlement away from Pitt Town's gazetted centre.

FERNADELL
The southern portion of Benjamin Jones’s grant has been bought by William Johnston in 1838, following the death of Benjamin Jones. It continued to be used for agricultural purposes and became known as Fernadell. It appears that the Johnston family used the Macquarie Inn/Mulgrave Place as their principal residence and Fernadell as farmland only.

In 1876 1877 two acres to the north of Buckingham Street were acquired for a new public school (and completed in 1878 to the design of George Allen Mansfield). The new school was located in the area of a former early farmhouse.

By the 1880s orcharding and dairying had taken over as alternatives to wheat. By 1890 the Hawkesbury district was producing over 16 million dozen oranges annually. In particular, the higher land proved suitable for orchards, while the lowlands were planted out with maize, oats and lucerne.

A citrus orchard was planted at Fernadell in c1910 and the property remained in the Hall/Johnston family until 1928 via the marriage of Emma Amelia Johnston to George Smith Greenwall.

In 1928 the property was sold to Robert Thornley Wood.

In 1942 W H Maze from the University of Sydney conducted a survey of agriculture in the Pitt Town area. According to this survey, by the 1940s the western half of Fernadell was used as an orchard and for growing vegetables and the eastern half was woodland.

The property changed hands many times in the 1940s and in 1961 it was bought by the Weatherstone Brothers.

In 1988 the western area was subdivided to create seven large semi-rural residential blocks (LTO DP 778197), while the rest of the property has continued as farmland up to the present.

One Aboriginal site has been identified by NPWS. It consists of four indurated mudstone artefacts within 10 m of each other located on a raised cultivation bed within an orchard (NPWS site number 45-5-2488). The 1989 Hawkesbury Aboriginal Sites Survey conducted by J McDonald identified two further isolated finds not registered on the NPWS register: a single artefact in the orchard near a drainage channel on the Fernadell Estate (IF1) and a single artefact in the orchard near the northern boundary of the Fernadell Estate (IF2).

BONA VISTA
In 1881 when it was bought by James Henry Johnston, the northern portion of Benjamin Jones’s 1803 grant appeared to be vacant. The detailed lithographic plan prepared for the 1881 auction shows no buildings on the site (Lot 7). However, subdivision plans are very unreliable evidence to prove a negative, since they are compiled for the sole purpose of selling specific plots of land. There may have been earlier structures on the site, dating back to the time of Benjamin Jones’s occupation after 1803 and prior to his departure for Tasmania in 1815.

James Henry Johnston built the Bona Vista homestead in the 1880s. It was built by Albert and George Arnold, building contractors from the Lower Portland area and cost £270. The original drive faced Johnston Street, addressing the 1881 Vermont subdivision.

The house is a substantial late Victorian farmhouse constructed of stone. It has a low-pitched, hipped roof with deep verandahs. There is an attached rear service wing, also constructed of stone. The house retains mature trees and its original tree-lined drive from Johnston Street. A tall Norfolk Island pine is situated close to the house and is visible from the Pitt Town Bottoms Road.

Also, close to the main house is a significant collection of early timber barns. The construction of these barns has been dated to between c1841 1890 and they form a major barn group within the larger collection of distinctive early Hawkesbury barns located on the lowlands near the Hawkesbury River. They share similarities with the other Pitt Town barns such as their age and construction and the inclusion of lofts and elevated storage spaces. Because of these similarities and the 1881 lithographic map which showed Bona Vista as a vacant site, it is assumed that the barns were moved to Bona Vista at some time after 1881. It is highly likely that the Johnstons moved the barns to the high ground of Bona Vista from other neighbouring lowland farms owned by the family.

Part of the property became an orchard, and the construction of the house and the probable relocation of the barns demonstrate the agricultural changes to the Pitt Town uplands in the late nineteenth century where grazing gave way to more intensive forms of agriculture such as orchards and dairy farming. The Bona Vista homestead group also demonstrate the ongoing agricultural connection between the Pitt Town lowlands and uplands.

To the south of the homestead is a weatherboard and fibro house, probably built in the early twentieth century, with a street address to Bootles Lane.

In 1928 James Henry Johnston died by drowning in the Hawkesbury River.

Following Johnston’s death, the orchard and agricultural use of the property continued. In W H Maze’s 1942 agricultural survey of Pitt Town, Bona Vista is shown as comprising a similar combination of orchards and open woodland as Fernadell immediately to the south.

In the 1930s and 1940s outbreaks of fruit fly and bushfires damaged local orchards and orcharding as a major industry in the Hawkesbury began to decline.

Presently, the central and eastern portions of Bona vista are cleared and merge into open woodland.

The original Bona Vista farm boundary is defined by substantial sections of hardwood split post and rail fencing, which it is assumed date from the 1880s.

Two Aboriginal sites have been identified by NPWS: three indurated mudstone artefacts exposed on a track near a channel excavation (NPWS site number 45-5-2489 and a scarred tree with a single scar (1.4m by 0.3m and regrowth between 15-20 cm) is located on the northern boundary of the Bona Vista estate within the red gum woodlands (NPWS site number 45-5-2490).

Acccording to the map of zones of Aboriginal archaeological sensitivity in the Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES Study (Navin Officer, January 2002), the original Bona Vista farmland includes zones of moderate and low-to-moderate potential, largely covering the eastern half of the property.

TWENTIETH-CENTURY PLANNING CONTROLS FOR BONA VISTA
In 1958 the Cumberland County Planning Scheme was announced which designated Pitt Town as a rural zone with a minimum subdivision size of five acres (two hectares) on order to retain its ‘rural’ character.

In 1968 the Cumberland County Planning Scheme was abandoned and replaced by Sydney Region Outline Plan. In the North-West Sector, Pitt Town continued to be designated a rural area.

In 1987 a proposal to extract sand prompted an Interim Conservation Order (ICO) to be placed over Bona Vista. The order covered a curtilage of approx 2.77 ha and included the homestead, slab barns and other outbuildings, entrance drive, carriage loop and ornamental plantings. At the time the NSW Heritage Council advised the Minister of Planning that it considered Bona Vista to be an item of state significance.

A second development application for sand extraction was submitted in 1992 together with a proposal following mining for subdivision of the land with the Bona Vista homestead group retained with a curtilage of 2.77 hectares. In 1993 the DA was refused and this refusal was subsequently upheld by the Land and Environment Court. The court found that the proposed curtilage of 2.8 ha would adversely affect the significance of Bona Vista.

In 1993 Hawkesbury City Council resolved to prepare an LEP to rezone the land to permit subdivision and retain a curtilage of 2.109 ha for the Bona Vista homestead group. The Council considered this area to be a satisfactory curtilage despite the earlier findings of the Land and Environment Court and Council’s own planning officer’s recommendation of a 14 ha curtilage for the house.

In 1995 the rezoning to allow subdivision was approved and in 1997 the western portion of the property along Bathurst Street was subdivided to create one block of about 4 ha, two blocks of 20 ha each and another 12 residential blocks of about 0.5 ha (1 acre) each (LTO DP 865977). Further subdivision formed additional 0.5 ha (1 acre) blocks. The land around the Bona Vista homestead group was reduced to approx 2 ha (5 acres), and a new entry to the homestead created off the newly formed Amelia Grove (LTO DP 979541).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural: Cliffs and escarpments influencing human settlement-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural: Plains and plateaux supporting human activities-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Daruk Nation - sites evidencing occupation-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Sharing resources through commons-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Orcharding-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes and countryside of rural charm-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of food production-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Housing farming families-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing towns in response to topography-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Building in response to climate - verandahs-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Victorian (late) homestead-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Vernacular structures and building techniques - slab barns, sheds-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with George Hall and related Jones, Fleming and Johnston families (Hawkesbury region)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES by Navin Officer (January 2002) classified Pitt Town’s cultural landscape values according to the following categories:
- the early colonial landscape
- the nineteenth century and early twentieth century agricultural landscape
- the orcharding landscape.

These three broad categories have been adopted in the following assessment of the historic significance of Bona Vista. The collection of early barns is discussed separately.

EARLY COLONIAL LANDSCAPE
Since its granting in 1803, the land in which the Bona Vista homestead is located has been an important component in the agricultural history and development of Pitt Town. It lies above the Pitt Town Bottoms, a surviving colonial landscape that is unique in Australia and recognised as nationally significant. The 1794-1804 land grants at Mulgrave Place and Pitt Town are the oldest group of farming grants surviving in Australia. The significance of Bona Vista and Pitt Town must be seen in the context of a holistic farming area. Not merely a township created by Macquarie and early farms solely on Pitt Town Bottoms. Bona Vista within its surrounding landscape is a unique precinct as the only part of the original Mulgrave Place (Hawkesbury) district still totally readable as a farming landscape, retaining its 1804 configuration.

The periodic flooding of the Hawkesbury River combined with its fertile alluvial soils saw the development of a direct agricultural connection between the Pitt Town lowlands and the adjacent uplands which together forma complete rural district. Local farmers held lands both on the lowlands and uplands in order to farm the alluvial lowlands soils and to graze animals, store produce and take refuge in times of flood on the uplands. The original land grant to Benjamin Jones in 1803, combined with his other landholdings along the river, is able to demonstrate this historically important relationship between the lowlands and uplands. Similar grants to Thomas Taylor, James Simpson, John Palmer and Daniel Smallwood have not remained so clearly legible in the landscape due to later subdivision and development.

The original Bona Vista farmlands are also significant in the agricultural continuity and rural character of the Pitt Town area. Lying within a colonial agricultural landscape, the ongoing agricultural viability of the lowlands and uplands is itself of historic significance, and Bona Vista is able to participate in this historic significance due to its former agricultural use and surviving open rural character (partly open forest and partly used for stock grazing).

Other aspects of the original Bona Vista farmlands able to demonstrate the colonial landscape include:
- legibility of the original position, edges and scale of the 1794-1804 land grants
- the alignment of the original 1803 land grant provided by Bathurst, Johnston and Buckingham Streets
- Bootles Lane formed in 1838 between Bathurst Street and its bend west of the intersection with Redfern Place
- the north-south easement linking the eastern end of Johnston Street with Bootles Lane (the original eastern boundary of the 1803 land grant)
- the general rural character of the landscape with its open spaces, fencing, and wide road verges
- remnant farmstead and earlier slab barns.

NINETEENTH CENTURY AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPE
The Bona Vista homestead group (comprising the homestead, the barns and other outbuildings, mature trees and tree-lined drive) is possibly the most substantial and extant nineteenth-century farmstead in the Pitt Town area, complete with surviving slab barns and agrarian land. It is of historical significance as a late Victorian stone farmhouse still largely within its original garden and rural setting. The house is intact and well maintained.

The substantial nature of the house (ie stone with deep verandahs) reflects the late nineteenth-century prosperity of the Jones/Fleming/Hall/Johnston family whose agricultural interests and landholdings dominated the area north of Pitt Town.

The immediate garden around the Bona Vista homestead retains mature trees and a tree-lined drive from the time of the house’s construction in the 1880s. (A new street access was created in the 1990s, but the original driveway to Johnston Street survives.) The garden is a representative example of a late Victorian rural garden and provides a garden context to the homestead. The original Bona Vista farmland (bounded by Bathurst and Johnston Streets and Bootles Lane) is marked by substantial sections of late nineteenth-century hardwood split post and rail fencing.

The homestead and immediate garden lies within a larger rural landscape of high significance. The house was built after the formal break up of the Hall Estate in 1881 but which in reality was largely retained in the possession of the Hall/Johnston family. Fernadell to the south was owned by James Henry Johnston’s parents, and both parcels of land had been in the possession of the Hall/Johnston family and prior to that, the related Jones/Fleming family since 1803 and formed part of the extensive Hall Estate.

The construction of Bona Vista homestead on the high ground overlooking the Hawkesbury River corresponds with a general shift from grazing to more intensive forms of farming, such as orchards, on the uplands. The siting of the house on the Pitt Town uplands and the probable relocation of the barns is able to demonstrate this significant development in the agricultural character of Pitt Town and to the continuing agricultural relationship between Hall/Johnston family landholdings on the alluvial river flats and the higher land.

BONA VISTA GROUP OF BARNS
The barns at Bona Vista form a group of early farm outbuildings of exceptional significance. The Pitt Town area contains a large number of vertical timber slab barns which possibly date from the 1840s. They share similar design and construction techniques and incorporate lofts and elevated areas for storage in times of flood.

The large number of barns at Bona Vista is highly unusual; so is the unconfirmed suggestion that the barns, built in c1840s, were probably moved to Bona Vista some time in the 1880s by the Hall/Johnston family. This probable relocation indicates their ongoing utility as farm outbuildings, their value to the family, and the need for service buildings following construction of the main house. This concentration of early slab barns at Bona Vista is of state significance.

In the 1991 Pitt Town Slab Barn Study the barns at Bona Vista were identified both individually and as a farm group. Three of the barns were considered to be of exceptional significance individually, another was considered to have high significance and the fifth had some significance. As a farm group, the barns were considered to be of exceptional significance for their type of construction and for their ability to demonstrate the agricultural history of the Hawkesbury district.

ORCHARDING
The development of orcharding in the late nineteenth century is an example of the agricultural continuity and viability of the Hawkesbury district. The industry has been in decline since the 1940s.

In relation to the orcharding landscape, Bona Vista, as a former orchard, was identified in the Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES by Navin Officer (January 2002) as having potential cultural landscape heritage values which required further analysis in order to fully assess what is a disappearing landscape (Navin Officer, page 3).
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Bona Vista homestead group and surrounding farmland are closely associated with the extended Jones/Fleming/Hall/Johnston family, a prominent pioneering Hawkesbury family and significant to the development of the Hawkesbury region as an important agricultural district.

The family were successful and highly prominent farmers in the district. They built up a large pastoral empire that extended to the Liverpool Plains and the Hunter Valley, they managed and eventually owned Bligh’s Model Farm (Blighton) following Governor Bligh’s departure in 1810, built and managed the Blighton Arms (c1815) at Pitt Town, built Percy Place (1820s, now demolished), built Bona Vista (1880s), established orchards in the twentieth century, and their complicated landholdings and family connections over generations have played a significant role in the agricultural development of Pitt Town. The family’s agricultural involvement in the Hawkesbury area continues to the present.

The complicated relations between the Jones, Fleming, Hall and Johnston families is an example of the local ‘clannishness’ between early Hawkesbury families identified by Tanner and Associates in the 1984 Heritage Study of the North-Western Sector. Other examples of such clannishness include the Loder family of Windsor and the Dunstan family of Kurrajong.

Major family figures associated with Bona Vista include:

GEORGE HALL (1764-1840) was one of the group of Presbyterian settlers from England and Scotland who arrived on the Coromandel in June 1802 and were have a great influence on the early development of the Hawkesbury. After a short period at Toongabbie, he was granted 100 acres on the Hawkesbury and moved with his family to Little Cattai Creek where he received a further grant of 100 acres in 1810. The property became known as Bungool. From 1807 he was a resident in the Hawkesbury area. Along with many other settlers that arrived on the Coromandel, Hall was a strong Presbyterian and helped build the church and schoolhouse at Ebenezer, completed in 1809. He went on to found a pastoral empire with his seven sons. The family built the Macquarie Arms in Pitt Town and by the time of George Hall’s death in 1840, they controlled most of the land north of Pitt Town, including Bona Vista, Percy Place and Bligh’s Model Farm.

BENJAMIN JONES (1773-1837) was sentenced to seven years transportation and arrived in Sydney in October 1791 on board the Britannia as part of the Third Fleet. He farmed land on the Pitt Town Bottoms beside Bardenarang Creek for his stepson, Henry Fleming, was probably the purchaser of the adjacent 12 acres and received a grant of 200 acres close by in 1803. In 1815 Jones and his wife and family left the Hawkesbury to live in Tasmania. His Hawkesbury property continued to be managed by his stepson, Henry Fleming until his death in Tasmania in 1837.

HENRY FLEMING (1791-1838) was born in Sydney in 1791. After the death of his father, Joseph Fleming, his mother, Mary, married Benjamin Jones in 1796. In May 1797 he received a grant of 30 acres fronting the Hawkesbury River and the Bardenerang Creek which was held in trust by his stepfather. In December 1810 he married Elizabeth Hall, the eldest daughter of George Hall and helped manage both his stepfather’s and father-in-law’s properties. He built and managed the Blighton Arms between 1815 and 1819, and in 1828 moved to the MacDonald Valley where he died in 1838.

WILLIAM JOHNSTON (1795-18??) was born in England and arrived in Sydney with his parents, Andrew and Mary Johnston as free settlers in 1802 on board the Coromandel. In 1891 he married Mary Hall, another of George Hall’s daughters. They lived at Collingwood, a farm at Portland Head given to Mary by her father, George Hall until about 1830 when they went to live at the Blighton Arms in Pitt Town transferred from Henry Fleming via George Hall to the Johnstons. In 1838 he and George Hall bought Benjamin Jones’s 200 acres, divided it in two by creating Bootles Lane, and the Johnston family continued to owned the southern portion, known as Fernadell, until the 1920s. His son, James Henry Johnston married his cousin, called Mary Hall in 1868 and bought the northern portion, Bona Vista, in 1882.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Bona Vista and its setting is of high aesthetic significance relating to the homestead group, views to and from the lowlands, and the continuing rural character of the landscape.

The homestead group (comprising the homestead, the barns and other outbuildings, mature trees and tree-lined drive) are of aesthetic significance as an intact example of a substantial late-nineteenth-century rural homestead group.

The garden contains original plantings and trees, including a mature pine. This pine tree has significance as both an historical and visual link between the lowlands and the upland properties owned by the Johnston family. The Bona Vista homestead was located on the Bathurst Street escarpment and originally had views over the Pitt Town lowlands. Despite the recent subdivision of the land on Bathurst Street in front of the house which has obscured the view, the pine tree is still visible from the Pitt Town lowlands and is well known as a local landmark.

The original Bona Vista farmlands lies within, and is an important component of, an agricultural landscape of high aesthetic significance for its picturesque qualities. The Pitt Town area has historically attracted artists (for example, Charles Conder, Arthur Stretton, Sydney Ure Smith, Cedric Emanuel) responding to both its historical significance and its rural character. Elements of the original Bona Vista farmlands able to demonstrate this ongoing rural character include:
- homestead with its chimneys and wide verandah and garden setting
- distinctive Hawkesbury barns and their rusticated appearance
- open, rural setting around the house and extant farmland
- surviving post and rail fencing and its rusticated appearance
- woodlands and remnant stands of citrus trees
- wide rural road verges.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The original Bona Vista farmlands are of high local significance to the residents of the Pitt Town area who value the property for both its historic importance and its aesthetic qualities. The property has been the subject of ongoing debate as to an appropriate curtilage to protect its significance and conflict within the community over proposals for sand extraction and residential subdivision. This significance is demonstrated by the listing of the house and slab barns group on the Hawkesbury City Council LEP as a heritage item in 1995.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The original Bona Vista and Fernadell properties demonstrate high significance for their potential to reveal significant archaeological relics, both Aboriginal and European.

According to the Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES by Navin Officer (January 2002), the assessment of the archaeological potential of Bona Vista is hindered by the lack of a comprehensive historic archaeology survey of the Pitt Town area. However, given the late eighteenth century settlement along the Pitt Town Bottoms and the continuing rural character of the Pitt Town area, it follows that the area comprising the 1794-1804 land grants and bounded by the Old Stock Road created by Governor King displays potential for archaeological deposits relating to colonial occupation.

Within this area, the original Benjamin Jones’s 1803 land grant is of particular significance for largely retaining its rural character and retaining archaeological potential to reveal further sites and deposits relating to the early colonial period. For example, archaeological evidence of Benjamin Jones’s c1806 house and barn on his original 200-acre grant may be located near the present Bona Vista homestead. The 1803 land grant also has further archaeological potential relating to later nineteenth and early twentieth century agricultural uses. This potential was especially noted in the Cultural Heritage Component of the Pitt Town LES by Navin Officer (January 2002, page 3).

The original 1803 land grant also contains five known sites of Aboriginal artefacts (two on Bona Vista and three on Fernadell) and the eastern area of Bona Vista farmland includes zones of moderate and low-to-moderate potential in regard to Aboriginal archaeological sensitivity. Therefore, some potential exists to discover additional evidence of pre- and post-contact Aboriginal occupation.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The cultural landscape of the Pitt Town area is of national significance as a unique surviving colonial settlement which contains an intact group of contiguous 1794-1804 land grants which are still clearly legible in the landscape and which have maintained a continuous agricultural character up to the present. The 1794-1804 land grants and the later Pitt Town development forms a discrete landscape unit of exceptional historic and archaeological significance. It is the oldest surviving example of an intact colonial landscape, pre-dating those in Tasmania.

Bona Vista lies within this landscape unit as part of the 1803 land grant to Benjamin Jones and is essential to an understanding of the colonial development of the Pitt Town area.

The Bona Vista homestead group is also rare as a substantial and intact example of late nineteenth century agricultural farmstead and surrounding farm in the Pitt Town area.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Bona Vista farm group and its setting are representative of the spread of agriculture on the Cumberland and its evolution from early grain growing and pastoralism, to orcharding, to market gardening, as urban Sydney has grown through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanHawkesbury Local Environmental Plan 2012I28621 Sep 12   
Local Environmental Plan - Lapsed  21 Jul 95   
Local Environmental Plan - Lapsed  18 Dec 89   

References, internet links & images

None

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1741703
File number: S90/04027


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